Swiss court finds Gazprom bankers guilty in Putin money laundering case

Four bankers from the Swiss subsidiary of Gazprom have been convicted by a Zurich court of failing to properly verify large sums of money circulating in the accounts of a Russian cellist and close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The accounts of the Swiss branch of Gazprombank were kept by Sergei Roldugin, the artistic director of the St. Petersburg Music House, often called “Putin’s cellist”.

Roldugin has been a friend of the Russian leader for more than four decades and is godfather to one of his daughters.

Documents leaked during the 2016 Panama Papers investigation revealed that the musician moved some $2 billion through a network of offshore companies under his control. He later became known as the “secret keeper” of Putin’s wealth.

The bankers were found guilty of “lack of due diligence in financial transactions” passing through Roldugin’s accounts, the Zurich District Court said in its verdict on Thursday.

However, the court suspended the sentences for two years, meaning the bankers will not have to pay a fine unless they commit the same offense during that time.

Under Swiss law, the identity of the guilty bankers – who are of Russian, Swiss and British nationality – cannot be made public.

The head of the local Gazprombank branch was fined 540,000 Swiss francs ($590,200). Two other managers were fined 90,000 francs and 63,000 francs, while a customer adviser was fined 48,000 francs.

Swiss law requires banks to apply stricter rules to transactions carried out by persons who hold high public office abroad or who are considered politically exposed, whether through their family, personal or professional relationships.

The US Treasury sanctioned Roldugin in June, arguing he was a key figure in managing Putin’s personal fortune overseas. It is also sanctioned by the EU.

Gazprombank is the financial arm of Russian energy giant Gazprom. Its Swiss branch focused primarily on products and services for the financing of international trade transactions.

It was banned from the Swiss banking sector following the invasion of Ukraine but is still in the process of liquidating its activities in the country.

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